NFL junkies like myself are aware of an old curse that has afflicted the fortunes of Kansas City Chiefs football teams ever since they tore down their old complex and built Arrowhead Stadium. This curse, The Curse of Arrowhead, is perhaps not as virulently toxic as having Dan Snyder LBO your favorite team. However, it supposedly explains why the team stopped being competitive in Super Bowls after building the new stadium in which to play their games.
The year was 1985, Kansas City Schools had been taken to court and a Federal Judge, with the customary modesty that befits the modern judiciary, decided that he would do a much better job of running the organization than a bunch of people who, you know, had formerly taught or something. Like the alien invaders at the end of Rush’s 2112 Suite, Judge Russell Clark assumed control. Since, the Curse of Judge Clark has laid low the fortunes of Kansas City Schools.
Using Civil Rights Act jurisprudence as a legal gravamen, he imposed a $2B, 12 year mandate on The State of Missouri. Kansas City proceeded to massively upgrade its physical capital and institute a forced integration program. The latter proved challenging, owing to the paucity of non-minority students attending school in the district, but Judge Clark plowed ahead.
To fund this ambitious project in civic fascism, Judge Clark raised property taxes by 150%, and imposed a 1.5% income tax surcharge. When the taxpayers of Missouri could no longer pony up the rest, he went to the state government and hit them up for the balance. The results remind the objective reader more of The Recovery Summer than the Platonic Academy. Paul Ciotti writes of the experiment below.
For more than a decade, the Kansas City district got more money per pupil than any other of the 280 major school districts in the country. Yet in spite of having perhaps the finest facilities of any school district its size in the country, nothing changed. Test scores stayed put, the three-grade-level achievement gap between blacks and whites did not change, and the dropout rate went up, not down.
We fast-forward to the present and see an even more tragic and human result from the feckless, arrogant and fascist enstupidation of Federal Judge Russell Clark’s unmitigated Progressive hubris. Today, 10 years after the mega-funded educational fiasco, Kansas City still struggles. The billions of dollars have been dissipated in a manner reminiscent of a drunkard leaning over a urinal. The schools still fail, the money has long gone, and the new generation of children stand there and eat the unintended consequences of unmitigated big-government hubris.
Like many who compete for good grades, Micah Chaney imagined this moment in her life to be different. She envisioned a “rise to the top,” where the finest colleges waited to be wowed. Now with her education in the Kansas City School District nearly complete, can she still see it? “No,” Micah, 16, told the school board last month. The auditorium fell silent. “I just don’t think I’m that prepared.”
Montgomery continues to describe the woeful management that occurred both with and without enlightened Federal Judges to make all the trains run on time.
In fatter fiscal times, the budget pie was portioned, by and large, to feed grown-ups or fulfill judges’ orders. Some slices were carved to fight social ills related to gangs, drugs and homelessness. Or to take advantage of federal grants awarded to groups promoting, say, sexual abstinence. Student achievement? In many classrooms, success was just the cherry on top, if success occurred at all.
That so many of the neediest kids were seen as commodities was an open secret. Their economic needs and learning issues meant more public dollars and grants for the city schools. Yet the district’s overall scores in math and communications seldom reached half the levels targeted in recent years by the state of Missouri.
(HT: Rick Montgomery as cited above).
Now, with yet another Superintendant, their 26th in the last 40 years, Kansas City, Mo faces all the same problems that Judge Russell Clark came to save them from. Only now, they have no money to solve them with and no Federal Judge to Shanghai taxpayers into forking over more loot. Schools have been closed, teachers have been laid off. If I had to guess, this new superintendant will last about 1.5 years as well. Roman Barracks Emperors had better prospects during the 3rd Century AD. Cives on the Roman sportulary had better future prospects than the citizens sending their kids to Kansas City Schools.
Some would read this blog cynically, accuse me of being a San Diego Chargers fan or something, and just write all of this off as bias. Except that the failures in Kansas City can teach an object lesson and the idiotic philosophies from whence these terrible spending initiatives sprung still dominate the policy conversations involving education in America. John Derbyshire describes how the public school system his children attend plans to abuse a $700M government grant.
$219.7 million: New standards and assessments, revised curriculum. $177 million: Programs still to be determined that comply with federal education reform priorities. $113.6 million: Improvements at failing schools. $110.3 million: Training of teachers and school principals. $64.2 million: New data systems to track student performance.
Given that description of expenditures, I see no possible way to insure this money will be spent wisely or in a manner consistent to the needs of children. Yet education gets funded without oversight and everyone assumes that the tooth-fairy will make these officials use it for the children. In Los Angeles, CA the LAUSD opens a $578M “Taj Mahal” school; The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools. Reactions predictably differ.
“There’s no more of the old, windowless cinderblock schools of the ’70s where kids felt, ‘Oh, back to jail,'” said Joe Agron, editor-in-chief of American School & University, a school construction journal. “Districts want a showpiece for the community, a really impressive environment for learning.”
However, parent groups want to know if this big, impressive building will actually help their children learn.
“New buildings are nice, but when they’re run by the same people who’ve given us a 50 percent dropout rate, they’re a big waste of taxpayer money,” said Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution who sits on the California Board of Education. “Parents aren’t fooled.”
Thus educational spending has been and still remains a completely unaccountable government spending piggy-trough. Nobody tells the education lobby no. They can’t ever seem to make it passed all the “underprivileged” children serving as human shields. This hits at the true tragedy of our soul-sucking educational establishment.
These children will never stop being underprivileged or having special needs. If their needs ever got fed, and the children could truly stand on their own, this would be a loss to the American educational bureaucracy. Kids that read, write, have goals and don’t take Ritalin just don’t justify a big enough budget…
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